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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (edgett2005 Chat Log)During this online chat, 51 questions were asked by 21 schools. There were 6 adults and 25 students involved in this chat.

    Hosted by Dr. Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems

    Hollie Miller - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from Depere, Wisconsin comments:
    Room opened by Moderator on 10/13/05 at 11:59.

    Hollie Miller - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from Depere, Wisconsin comments:
    Space Explorers would like to welcome Dr. Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems as the host for our chat today. All questions will be viewed by a moderator. We will try to get through as many questions as possible during the chat period. Ask away!

    Mrs. Mills - Chat Guest at Lakeside High from , WI asks:
    How did you get involved in the Mars Science Laboratory mission? When does that mission begin?

    NASA asked scientists to propose investigations to conduct on MSL. Those proposals were due in July 2004. In Decemer 2004, NASA announced the selection of which instruments/investigations will go to Mars on MSL. My proposal for a microscopic imager, named MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager) was one of the ones selected. The mission has already begun, in the sense that NASA has started to fund the effort to design the rover and its flight systems. The launch will be between Aug - Dec 2009

    Jessica - Chat Guest at from Fenton, Missouri asks:
    What do you hope to find with the Mars Science Lab mission?

    It depends upon where we land. One emphasis of this mission is to look for organic molecules-- something that hasn't been done since Viking in the 1970s. Personally, what I am excited about is the prospect to learn something about the minerals in sedimentry rocks.

    Lacey - Chat Guest at Martin Junior High from Tempe, Arizona asks:
    What is the MAHLI your working on for the Mars science mission?

    Mars Hand Lens Imager-- similar to the Microscopic Imager on the MER rovers currently operating on Mars, but we can take higher and lower resollution images, and do it in color.

    Ms. Richardson - Chat Guest at Washington Middle from , NJ asks:
    My class found it interesting that the Flinstones began your career. Can you tell us more?

    There was an episode of Flinstones where "Kazoo" arranged for the gang to go into the future. Part of the show was spent on a tourist trip to Mars. One day, as an adult, I saw this episode again, and I realized that a lot of my early interest in Mars came from that episode-- how cool it would be go WALK on Mars.

    Johanna - Chat Guest at JFK Middle School from Perry, Iowa asks:
    Do you think humans will ever make it to Mars?

    Humans will go just about anywhere that there is to go, eventually. It is what we do. It is part of our nature to be curious about what lies over the next hill, and whether (a) there is anything we can use there, or (b) whether it simply LOOKs cool.

    Kirsten - Chat Guest at Washington Middle School from , NJ asks:
    What did you have to g o to school for to do your job?

    I did a Bachellors Degree, Masters Degree, and Ph.D., all in Geology. This provided key training that I apply every day in selecting images to take of Mars with Mars Glboal Surveyor's cameras.

    Abbey - Chat Guest at Woodleigh from Melbourne, Victoria asks:
    How Long have you been studying Space?

    I've been interested in space since the early 1970s, but studying it as a researcher goes back to about 1986--about 19 years

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    Is mars really red?

    Well, red the way that rust is red---i.e., can be yellowish or brownish or orangish.

    danny - Chat Guest at st. johns from , wisconsin asks:
    are there aliens on mars.

    No body knows whether Mars has or ever had life. If it did, the organisms would have been microscopic, because we find no evidence for anything macroscopic, like dead trees, dinosaur bones, or ruined cities.

    Lydia - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    Does a camera on mars' enviroment have to be made different from the cameras here on earth?

    Yes, the camera has to be able to withstand greater extremes of temperature (the MAHLI on MSL will have to survive down to temperatures cold enough to freeze carbon dioixe) and survive rapid swings in temperature (it can be above Freezing during the day, then drop more than 100 degrees below freezing at night--that it a bigger day/night "swiing" that we usually see on Earth. Also, camersas in space have to be protected from the Sun's radiation.

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    You have went to mars, right?

    No people have been to Mars. I go there in my mind, a lot, though, when I look at all the cool pictures that are coming back from the 3 orbiters and 2 rovers currently operating there.

    Mersades - Chat Guest at Naukati from Naukati, Alaska asks:
    Why is the milky way called the milky way

    If you go out to a place that is very dark at night--away from the cities--you'll see the Milky Way. There's so many stars spread across the sky, and they are so far away, that instead of individual stars, it looks like haze--- it looks Milky. So, our galaxy is called the Milky Way. (the candy bar came along later)

    Lydia - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    How do you get the cameras so they can send information back to earth from mars?

    The cameras I work with are built here at MSSS in San Diego. We buy parts and assemblies for the cameras from various places across the U.S. When the camera is on a spacecraft and it is at Mars, the data are digital and sent back to Earth using the radio antenna(s) on the spacecraft. Huge radio antennas on Earth in California, Spain, and Australia pick up the signals and, eventually, the data get sent to the people operating the camera. It's amazing and it works every day.

    Jacob - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    How long does it take to get the imiges to Earth?

    This varies according to the distance from Earth to Mars. Right now, Earth and Mars are closer together than they are at other times during the year, so right now it take about 5 minutes for a picture to get here.When Mars is farther away, it can take much longer (30 minutes, maybe)

    Jacob - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    Are there camras on the rovers?

    There's lots of cameras on the 2 rovers currently operating on Mars. If you go the the rover web site at JPL, you can see all the pictures these cameras are taking, every day they update with new ones. Each rover has something like 9 cameras (4 sets of 2 for stereo views, plus 1 microscopic imager)

    Trevor - Chat Guest at St. Lukes from Riverview, SD asks:
    How far is Mars from Earth?

    Pretty far. I'd have to look this up in a book. I think at the moment it might be around 35,000,000 miles, but the distance varies because Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different distnaces from the Sun, so Earth actually goes around Sun faster.

    Cooper - Chat Guest at Fort Mount from , NV asks:
    Where are the Rovers now?

    Spirit is on top of a hill named Husband for one of the lost Columbia astronauts. This is in Gusev Crater. Opportunity, last I heard, was in a large, shallow crater named Terra Nova, and observing an adjacent crater, Erebus. This is in Meridiani Planum.

    Ms. Richardson - Chat Guest at Washington Middle from , NJ asks:
    What inspired you to write the children's book?

    I've always wanted to write books, and I really enjoy children's books (reading them) because they can be so lavishly illustrated.

    Trevor - Chat Guest at St. Lukes from Riverview, SD asks:
    Do you think people will be living on Mars somday?

    Perhaps they will. As I noted earlier, humans are curious (in general). We like to explore and see what is over the next hill, around the corner, across the sea, and beyond to the Solar System and the stars. Some people will find some reason to want to live on Mars, I'm sure.

    Cooper - Chat Guest at from Fort Mount, NV asks:
    So you can take the pictures yourself? If yes, thats pretty cool!

    The camera on Mars Global Surveyor is controlled here at MSSS in San Diego. One of my main jobs is to select targets for the camera to take pictures of. We've gotten mor than 210,000 images so far, and I took many ttens of thousands of those. YOU can also take pictures of mars. The MSSS web site has a place where you (the public) can suggest targets. And the Mars Odyssey THEMIS has an education program that lets kids take pictures of Mars, so there's 2 ways to takee pictures thatyou can do

    Lydia - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    Does mars have an ozone layer?

    No, it doesn't. Ozone is composed of Oxygen. The air your lungs like to breathe is O_2 (Osubscript2). Ozone is similar, instead of 2 oxygen atoms, it is composed of three (O_3). You need a lot of O_2 in the atmosphere to get an O_3 ozone layer, and Mars has next to nothing in the way of free oxygen. However, there is SOME oxygen and there is SOME ozone, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter MARCI camera, operated here at MSSS, will detect the ozone.

    Mackenzie - Chat Guest at Elmore Elementary from Green Bay, WI asks:
    Do the cameras ever get full of pictures like the digital cameras we have.

    Yes, in fact they do, but there is a computer on the spacecraft to which the pictures are rapidly transfered. If the computer on the spacecraft doesn't read the pictures out of the camera fast enough (or the camera takes too much data at one time), then the camera's buffer will be full. That happens to us on Mars Global Surveyor from time to time.

    Philip - Chat Guest at Ps 10 from Chicago, Illinois asks:
    Do the Rovers ever get stuck?

    Yes, the Opportunity rover got stuck in a big windblown ripple back in April or May. It was stuck there for about 6 weeks while the engineers at JPL on Earth came up with an approach to get un-stuck. It was wild.

    Lydia - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    Why is mars red?

    Iron in the minerals that make up the rocks and regolith (the dirt) oxidizes-- essentially making rust--whicih is reddish, as you know.

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    What is the exact website of the MSSS website?

    http://www.msss.com/

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    Do you plan on going to Mars some day?

    I'm probably too old, but more importantly is that I don't enjoy flying on airplanes, so I probably wouldn't enjoy being in a spaceship. If there was some way to get me to Mars without a spaceship (like the Stargate on TV, or a Star Trek transporter), then I'd go. But that's not going to happen ...

    Mackenzie - Chat Guest at Elmore Elementary from Green Bay, WI asks:
    Why is it so cold on mars, don't it get any sun?

    It's farther from the Sun than Earth, and it atmosphere is thinnner (about 100 times thinner than the air you are breathing right now). Farther from the Sun is like sitting far from a campfire-- not as warm. And having a thinner atmosphere is like not wearing your winter coat when its snowing outside--- less to hold in the heat.

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    Are there any living features (at all) in space?

    Nobody has found anything living, other than on Earth

    Kirsten - Chat Guest at Washington Middle School from , NJ asks:
    Where do you live, is it close to a space study place?

    San Diego, California. The company I work for is located there. We are about 1 1/2 hours drive from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA, which operates the US mission to Mars

    Kirsten - Chat Guest at Washington Middle School from , NJ asks:
    If you can go to Mars, what part you go to first and why?

    This is a good and tough question. Over the last 8 years, we have come to realize that Mars has a very diverse geology. There is no one place that will answer all our questions about Mars. I would probably start with Gale Crater. It has a stack of layered sedimentary rock thicker than the sequence in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This would give a detailed record of past martian environements. Or maybe I'd go to West Candor. Somewhere with sedimetnary rocks, anyway

    STephanie - Chat Guest at Irving Middle Schoo from Gary, Indiana asks:
    How big are the cameras you have t otake pictures with? I hope my question gets answered

    It depends. The camera on Mars Global Surveyor is essentially a telescope. It's several feet long. The MAHLI will be smaller, fit in the palm of your hand. So it depends on the goal, as to what size camera you build. Typically, the goal is to make things as small and light-wieght as possible, because every pound (or gram, or whatever) you want to send into space adds to the cost of the launch.

    Mersades - Chat Guest at Naukati from Naukati, Alaska asks:
    If you can go to any planet what one would you go to

    People will be surprised that I'm not going to say Mars. I'm going to say Saturn, because, frankly, I'm one of those people who just like to see COOL things. Standing on a moon of Saturn, looking up at the sky and seeing the planet, the rings, and lots of other Moons...thata would be breathtaking. Saturn's moon, Titan, would be spectacular to visit, too.

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    How long would it take to get to Mars?

    Depends on the power of the launch vehicle, etc., but a typical trip from Earth to Mars is between 7 and 11 months long.

    Julie - Chat Guest at Smith County from , Texas asks:
    How has Mars changed over the years?

    The south polar cap is made of frozen carbon dioxide. With our camera on Mars GlobalSurveyor, we have seen the carboon dioxide is going away, bit by bit, each year we've been in orbit. This probably means that the atmosphere is warmer now than it was a few decades to centuries ago-- the Mars that Schaiparelli was looking at in 1877 might have been a little bit colder, with a little bit thinner atmosphere-

    Jacob - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    Are your camras going to suvey the moon so we can build a base there?

    Our company, MSSS, is indeed building some cameras that will go on a mission to orbit the Moon in 2008. This is a project led by my colleague, Mark Robinson, at Northwestern Univeristy in Illinios. One of the key goals of these cameras is to look for places to send future landers, rovers, and People. Pres Bush has said he wants NASA to have people return to the Moon by 2020. NASA recently announced a plan that would get people there by 2018. A base would possibly be built in the 2020's.

    Yvonne - Chat Guest at Naukati School from , asks:
    You said that Mars is closer to Earth right now than it usually is, if it were a clear night, would we be able to see it in the sky? Would it just look like one of the stars?

    Yes, you can see Mars at night right now. In the early morning, like around 4 a.m., it is almost straight overhead. It very distinct from the stars because it is brighter than most of them (exept maybe Sirius, near Orion, which will also be up in the sky at 4a.m. and to the east/southeast of Mars)...mars is very bright and distinclty reddish/orangish. It's amazing,too, to realize there are rovers and orbiters operating up there right now

    Lydia - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    Is the camera that may go to jupiter different from the one that will go to mars?

    The Jupiter camera is actually very similar to the camera we're designing to take images of Mars as MSL descends to the planet's surface in 2010. It will be a camera that kids will use to explore Jupiter's cloud belts.

    Lydia - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Junction, Alaska asks:
    My teacher wants to know, will your company supply security cameras for the base on mars?

    Would a base on Mars need security? There's no one there to break in. ;-) Certainly our company is interested in building cameras for space projects, well into the future

    Hollie Miller - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from Depere, Wisconsin comments:
    The chat room will be closing in approximately five minutes. At this time, we would like to thank everyone for joining us for this special event. We would especially like to thank Dr. Ken Edgett for hosting our chat today.

    Mersades - Chat Guest at Naukati from Naukati, Alaska asks:
    why dose every one like mars so much

    I don't know that everyone does. I know that there is a lot of interest in Mars because, of all the planets in our Solar System, it is the most similar to Earth (yet it is SO different). There is a lot we can learn about Earth by looking at other planets.

    Hollie Miller - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from Depere, Wisconsin comments:
    Please join us again on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005 for a chat with astronaut John B. Herrington, Vice President and Director of Flight Systems for Rocketplane Limited, Inc.. During this chat, you will have an opportunity to discuss his experiences in space.

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Clover Elementary from , asks:
    What advice would you give students interested in studying and possibly going to Mars?

    I'd suggest that you follow your interests and see where they lead. If you like sewing, keep in mind that someone has to sew up the gloves that astronauts use in space. The gloves a person willuse on Mars will be critical-- to do good geology, they'll need to be much more manipulatable than the gloves the astronauts used on the Moon in the 60s/70s. If you are interested in medicine/being a doctor, there will be need for a doctor on a flight to Mars. So there's a lot of avenues for being involved

    Jacob Mc Cabe - Chat Guest at from , asks:
    What planet do you think our greatest discovery will come from?

    That's hard to say. Could be a planet we haven't found yet, orbiting a star we haven' t thought much about. This will be the planet where we find evidence of intelligent life :-) (who knows?)

    Amy - Chat Guest at Johnson Creek from , asks:
    What minerals are present to determine if life once existed on Mars?

    I

    Cooper - Chat Guest at from Fort Mount, NV asks:
    How are the minerals on Mars different/same as here?

    The minerals are essentially the same as on Earth, with some minor differences. Probably more interesting is what kinds of rocks and minerals haven't been found, like carbonates... meaning that we still don't understand where most of Mars' oringal carbon dioxide atmopshere went---Earth's CO_2 is mostly locked up in its carbonate rocks (limestone, dolomite)

    Sarah - Chat Guest at from St. Louis Park, MN asks:
    So if you study the pictures of the rocks, does the rover get to pick up an samples of them for you

    The rover can't pick up the rocks, but it has tools to examine the rock

    Hollie Miller - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from Depere, Wisconsin comments:
    Thank you for your participation today, and thank you again Dr. Edgett!

    Hollie Miller - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from Depere, Wisconsin comments:
    10/13/2005 12:57:46 PM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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